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Bruce Goff's Bavinger House

On the Trail of Julius Shulman: Stop 5Bruce Goff's Bavinger House 

Probably the best known stop on our modern bus tour of Oklahoma City is actually on the outskirts of Norman. The bizarre abode known as the Bavinger House is nestled beside a two-lane strip of asphalt and hidden amongst blackjack trees and tall bamboo.

The house juts up from the surrounding flora like an abandoned UFO. The brown roof blends in with the surrounding vegetation- yet its thin, steel supports (pilfered long ago from the cabane struts of a local aircraft manufacturer) glint in the sunlight. To call it unorthodox would almost be laughable- "other worldly" might be more like it! 

Bruce Goff may have designed this unique structure, and today gets most of the credit, but it was Eugene Bavinger who built it over the course of five years. Many of the components were either dug from the nearby farmland or re-purposed from local sources. The fact it's still standing is a testament to Bavinger's ingenuity.
The roof and walls spiral upward, supported in the center by that most Okie of building materials: the oil well drill pipe. The roof is supported from above and does not rest on the spiral wall. Stone and glass make up this wall, that would stretch over 90 feet if laid straight. The house has a fairytale quality with a little Jules Verne mixed in. Jackie thought we might have been trapped in the game Myst. 

It's all about levels!On this rainy day the adjacent creek was moving swiftly. The bright green grass along its banks was smoothed over as evidence of the heavy rains earlier that morning. Stepping inside it became quite evident the rain wasn't restricted to just the out of doors. An indoor water feature appeared to have benefited from the rains, as they leaked past the rock and glass walls. One tour goer likened living in the house to"indoor camping."
Inside the house has a maritime quality with roped and wires supporting stairways and "living pods." The house has no rooms, as such. Saucer-shaped bowls were intended as bedrooms and living areas. Fiberglass cylinders, visible from outside, serve as closets. The kitchen is relatively mundane- being located on the ground floor and having a conventional wall. 

But don't take my word for it... take your own tour! Visit for a gallery, special events, tour dates and times.

While writing this fifth and final installment for On the Trail of Julius Shulman we received sad news of Shulman's passing at the age of 98.

While there were many remembrances published in the following days, one I found insightful was from the blog of retailer Design Within Reach. Shulman worked with DWR over the years on various projects and promotions. Their blog was titled simply, Remembering Julius Shulman.


Anonymous said…
In the 1960s & early 70s there was a very "Goff-like" structure on Oklahoma Hiway 10 Northeast of Grove Oklahoma. It had a cable suspended roof, stone walls and the famous glass cullet scattered on the sloping flat roof. It was clearly a design related to B. Goff, either of his design or "inspiration." If anyone knows of this structure please contact us at "The Architecture of Bruce Goff" in Facebook groups. Thanks for your help.
JRB said…
That sounds familiar. My father is from Wyandotte so we visited the area quite often around that time. I'll try to do a little research.

And here's a link to the Bruce Goff Facebook group.

The Recent Past

The Bruce Goff House in Vinita

We were recently surprised to learn about a Goff-designed home just an hour away from Tulsa in Vinita, Oklahoma. Vinita is probably best known to OK Mod readers as the home of the Glass House on I-44, also known as (shudder) the World's Largest Largest McDonalds . Anywho, turned out the Goff house was on the market, and the owner was more than happy to let us have a look around. We took a short drive up the turnpike one Sunday afternoon to meet the realtor, snap some pictures, ask some questions and enjoy another one of Bruce Goff's unique creations. The home is known as the Adams House and was built in 1961. The 3,700 square foot home is arranged in a circular floor plan with a large sunken "conversation pit" at the center. Rising up from this pit is a large metal fireplace, its chimney surrounded by skylights, which dominates the entire house. Rooms surround the perimeter with folding accordion doors acting as walls. To maintain some semblance of privacy an inner

The World Museum

The widening of I-44 through Tulsa will soon claim another mid-century building (see Modern Homes Make Way for I-44 ). This unusual landmark near Peoria, once known as the World Museum, is being emptied in preparation for demolition. The concrete complex was built in 1963 by the Osborn Ministries as a museum and "Interstate Temple." Self-proclaimed minister, T. L. Osborn, and his wife, Daisy, traveled the world as Christian missionaries and collected art and artifacts on their journeys. The unusual La Concha-esque building housed their partial collection and distracted motorists touring along the new Skelly Bypass (aka I-44). The exterior of the building is adorned with maps of the world's continents. In its heyday there was a good deal more- a giant outline of Jesus was on one wall. The inscription below it, "REX," provided one of my earliest Latin lessons when I asked Dad why that building had my name on it. There was also a large globe that once stood out fr

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